Valentin Salazar

Everything changed for Valentin Salazar when he admitted to ACHSNM

“You’ll never breathe on your own again.”

For more than two years, Valentin Salazar kept hearing the same words over and over. He was on five liters of oxygen at home and rarely left his bed or wheelchair. His lungs simply couldn’t handle any activity, to the point that Valentin couldn’t even enjoy the simple things in life.

Doctor after doctor repeated the bad news.

“You’ll never breathe on your own again.”

Then, Valentin admitted to Advanced Care Hospital of Southern New Mexico (ACHSNM).

Before arriving at ACHSNM, Valentin went to the hospital for worsening shortness of breath. Doctors diagnosed him with acute respiratory failure and immediately placed him on a ventilator set to 55 liters. The settings never changed until his transfer to ACHSNM.

At ACHSNM, every therapist, nurse, and doctor worked around the clock to wean Valentin off the ventilator. He recalls one therapist, Andy, who “lovingly pushed me daily” to be able to get stronger and walk. Andy would tell him, “watch, you will walk out of here, and you will do it with no oxygen.” Valentin just laughed because, to him, that was never an option.

Two intense weeks later, Valentin was down to just ten liters of oxygen. He could wobble slightly with immense help — significant progress from being bed-bound, even if he still had a long way to go. Valentin was ready for the next phase of his recovery and transferred to Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico (RHSNM).

Valentin spent two more weeks pushing, sweating, and rigorously participating in as much therapy as possible. Lisa and Donna took Andy’s place in pushing and cheering on Valentin as he continued to work on oxygen weaning and walking.

One moment during Valentin’s stay stood out as his best (and somewhat scariest) memory.

Rosa, Valentin’s favorite respiratory therapist, came to his room to “check something.” She took off the nasal cannula that supplied Valentin’s oxygen and walked out of the room. When she returned, Valentin kept saying, “you forgot to put this back on.” Rosa replied, “No, I didn’t. We’re taking you off. Mr. Salazar, you do not need this anymore.”

At this moment, Valentin teared up. He called his wife immediately to let her know the good news. Valentin couldn’t even believe the words he was saying. “I can breathe without help. I did it!” Even recalling the memory today, Valentin gets emotional.

“I am so thankful for every human in this building,” Valentin said of his time at ACHSNM and RHSNM. “You treated me like family and always made me a priority. Even your food is fantastic!”

Valentin still cannot believe what Rosa did to help him breathe on his own. But Valentin did all the hard work. The staff just gave him nudges in the right direction. Valentin is excited to go home and return to gardening, to be able to grow watermelon again, and use a weedwhacker. Most of all, Valentin is glad to not be tied down to any amount of liters and an oxygen tank, and “to just feel normal and breathe in and out.”

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